Right now, so many of us are feeling as if we are running really low in energy. Why is that? Why do we feel like we had more energy during the first wave of the pandemic than we do now?
When we first went into lockdown, we had daily reports about the huge numbers of people dying and testing positive for Coronavirus. And the shock, concern, worry and anxiety we felt was overwhelming. But we continued to function with determination and energy. We had to make sure we came through this okay; other people were relying on us to make sure they were okay too. We were looking after family members who were shielding, or home-schooling kids, or working on the frontline, so many people depended on us to stay strong.
I’m not saying it wasn’t difficult. What I’m saying is that, in contrast to how we felt then, now we may be feeling relatively slow and quiet. Feeling depleted in resources and low in energy and resilience. Maybe the kids have gone back to school, and you have finally got some time to yourself. Everyone’s sleeping better. Work isn’t as manic as it was.
Wherever you have those feelings, they usually come with a ‘should’ attached:
“ I should have energy now.”
“ I should be coping better.”
“ I should have more resilience.”
“ I should be able to do more.”
You’re saying to yourself, “ I was able to cope, but now it feels overwhelming.”
So, what’s the problem?
The problem we’ve been functioning like this for such a long time, and we can’t live in this state of adrenaline for a long time without it having consequences for our mental and physical health.
We’ve been living in a chronic state of stress. Our fear and our fight, flight, freeze responses have been activated, a lot. They exist in the back of our brains, the bit that isn’t very bright but is very powerful. It’s the first part of your brain that started doing anything even vaguely exciting during our evolution.
If this part of our brain is activated for a significant length of time, it drains our mental and physical energy. Being in a heightened state of fear over a long period can lead to hypervigilance, and it’s not a great way to live.
Now, you feel you can start to let that go slightly? You are allowing your body and your brain to come out of the hypervigilant state. You are beginning to acknowledge and understand how you are genuinely feeling. You are starting to understand what’s going on with you. Where your energy levels are is not masked anymore, it’s not being covered over by fight, flight, or freeze, that pumping adrenaline that’s kept you going over the last six months.
Maybe, you’ve started to come down to more normal functioning, wherever that might be for you and your body. What is happening for so many of us is that we’re starting to realise where we’ve been and what we’ve been feeling. We are beginning to take some time, whether that’s intentionally or unintentionally, to reflect on what’s happened to us.
We may begin to feel some low mood, along with low energy, as we confront these difficult feelings; feelings of pain, hurt, grief and confusion.
Now what’s happening here is the more evolved front part of your brain is kicking in and reflecting. This is decision making part and it’s thinking things through.
Our bodies have gone through so much stuff. Stuff that we are only just beginning to process because we are more able to do so now. It’s still hard work, though, with all the complicated emotions that we couldn’t process when we were in that state of fear.
How do we move forward? What do we do now?
Lose the ‘shoulds’.
If you catch yourself saying one of the shoulds I’ve listed here try changing it to a could. This is a tip from “The Chimp Paradox”, a great read if you want to explore how your brain works under pressure more deeply.
For example, I should be doing more work. I should clean the house. Instead, try, I could do some work, I could clean the house. That way, there is choice and kindness in what we are telling ourselves.
Show yourself some compassion.
Please show yourself some self-compassion. The Self-Compassion Break by Kristin Neff is a great meditation. Just taking five minutes to think through what is you’re feeling and offer yourselves kindness and care in this situation.
Talk things through.
What helps me most to find perspective and reflect on my feelings and experiences is talking them through with a trusted friend, somebody who knows and cares.
We aren’t going to walk away from this, all of a sudden feeling great again. It’s going to be a gradual reclaiming of our energy levels, our lives, our emotions, our mental health and physical health.
If you feel like you need further support to reflect on your lockdown experience so far, please check out my guide to “Life after Lockdown” eBook.